Madden tops Cherokee's Grassy Smith Memorial
By James EssexLucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series
GAFFNEY, S.C. (June 21) — Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., defended his home turf Friday night, claiming a $10,000 victory as Cherokee Speedway welcomed the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series for the annual Grassy Smith Memorial. Madden led the 50-lap main event all the way in claiming the third series victory his career. | Slideshow | Video
Madden had tough competition early from Brent Dixon of Elberton, Ga., and Chris Ferguson of Mount Holly, N.C., until both drivers fell out of contention. Madden cruised through the second half of the race, topping defending race winner Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., at the finish. Dennis Erb Jr., of Carpentersville, Ill., was third with Don O'Neal of Martinsville, Ind., and Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., rounding out the top five.
"It feels great to win here at Cherokee; it has been a while,” said Madden, who earned his third straight victory and fourth on the season overall. “The car was super tonight. We had a few problems there in traffic, but overall, after that last caution, I could drive it anywhere on the track.”
The pole-starting Madden battled with second-starting Ferguson and third-starting Dixon for the first several circuits. Dixon got by Ferguson on lap 16 and then pursued Madden for the lead.
Dixon and Ferguson were able to stay close to Madden as the race for the lead began to heat up as the trio got into lapped traffic. Dixon nearly took the lead from Madden before a caution came out as the two split a lapped car.
Madden slipped in turn two on the restart, drifting up the track to nearly allow Dixon to take the lead. Dixon held second until three laps remained when he slowed suddenly to bring out the race’s final caution. Madden cruised through the final run to the checkers to grab the victory.
Francis and Erb, who battled for fourth and fifth for most of the last half of the race, were the beneficiaries after Dixon left the race, but neither driver had anything for Madden in the final laps. Last year's Lucas Oil Series Rookie of the Year, Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., was running third when he lost his fuel cell on lap 42.
Notes: Madden’s Bloomquist Race Car is powered by a Clements Racing Engine with sponsorship from Hamrick’s of Gaffney, Henderson Amusement, KC Transport, Swiftco, Allstar Performance, Century Plastics, Cushman Body and Paint, East Coast Entertainment and Xtreme Customs and Cycles. ... Madden’s two previous victories came in Southern All Stars Series action at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., and Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn. ... Lucas Oil Series competitors round out their tripleheader weekend on Saturday with a trip to Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va.
Grassy Smith Memorial: (1) Chris Madden, (2) Steve Francis, (3) Dennis Erb Jr., (4) Don O’Neal, (5) Dale McDowell, (6) Jared Landers, (7) Earl Pearson Jr., (8) John Blankenship, (9) Jimmy Owens, (10) Chris Ferguson, (11) Eddie Carrier Jr., (12) Craig Vosbergen, (13) Billy Moyer Jr., (14) Ricky Weeks, (15) Tim Allen, (16) Jerry Lierly, (17) Brent Dixon, (18) Jonathan Davenport, (19) Ty Dillon, (20) Dennis Franklin, (21) Steve Shaver, (22) Jeff Smith, (23) Johnny Pursley, (24) Casey Roberts. Fast qualifier (among 27 cars): Shaver, 15.021 seconds. Heat winners: Madden, Ferguson, Dixon. Consolation winners: Allen.